Documentaries and coffee table books constantly remind me about my parents’ generation, those “flower Children” of the sixties. Again and again, we hear how they dropped out, sat in, loved freely. But I wonder whatever happened to my group? All those kids, like me, raised on Dr. Spock and "School House Rock," during the '60s and '70s, and who grew to dance beside me in the 1980s? Do they get that jolt back in time when hearing "Rock Me Amadeus" like I do? Do they still sneak puffs of clove cigarettes? Do they remember thinking, as I once did, that Prince's "1999" seemed to be about way off time in the future? Do their kids pull their Flash Dance shirts and ruffled mini-skirts out of the closet for Halloween or for '80s day at school?(photo: me in all my '80s glory.)
The Eighties might not have been the most free spirited revolutionary years, but they were mine. And whenever I smell the sweet, herbal aroma of clove cigarettes, I drift back to the those days - when my hair was big and I wore chunky belts hanging off my waist, bangles up and down my wrists and my lace tights purposefully torn. When my daughter flips stations on the radio and I hear "Don’t Dream it’s Over" by Crowded House, or “I Will Follow” by U2, I remember that music back then wasn’t all Styx and Flock of Seagulls.
I flash back to those many nights of the early '80s when I still lived in San Francisco. The clubs South of Market were close enough to walk from one to another, like The Oasis with its plexi-glass covered pool as a dance floor; Club Nine, where I gazed up at Chris Isaak suavely crooning in his vintage tapestry smoking jacket, and then watched him crawl by me, on his hands and knees, up a stairway - completely wasted; Club DV8 and Echo Beach, where each evening was lived in a smoky haze of clove smoke and Polo cologne and we could count on hearing Frankie Goes to Hollywood imploring us to "Relax"; there was Hamburger Mary's for pre-clubbing cocktails. There was The I-Beam, on Haight, to listen to bands like the Meat Puppets, or the Kabuki where I saw the Alarm, and Todd Rudgren's Utopia. The evening ended with a kiss from Utopia's bass player Kasim Sulton.
And whenever I hear The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket," I'm immediately back cruising El Camino Real in Jackie's Nova. Her car full of us girls shrieking along to Chrissie Hynde, "I'm special...so special!" Or if it wasn't that song it was the B-52's "Rock Lobster," or The Euryhymic's "Sweet Dreams," or Talking Heads “Burning Down the House” or The Ramones "I Want to Be Sedated," and, of course, Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."
In 1985, I left San Francisco for the sun in Southern California. I spent most of my days slathered in Hawaiian Tropic coconut oil on Surfrider beach in Malibu soaking up the sun and listening to KROQ play The Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" or Duran Duran's "Rio," over and over again - as I diligently put off finding work. But my nights were reserved for clubbing.
L.A.’s dance clubs, unlike San Francisco's, were spread apart. Sunset Boulevard wasn't all that happening, so my roommate and I would drive to Downtown L.A. for the clubs in old hotels, like Power Tools with its flashing lights, caged dancers and cigarette girls. Or in seedy Hollywood warehouses, like Scream - which smelled like spilled beer and stale cigarette smoke, with its multiple floors, rickety stairs and walls painted in day-glo graffiti. A mirrored room pulsed with strobe lights as people danced together while watching their own images in what seemed an orgy of egos. And The Palace at Hollywood and Vine, with its huge dance floor where big-haired dancers wriggled shoulder to shoulder, bathed in purple light.
Of course, I can't forget all those "hair bands" I saw at The Roxy, The Whiskey, FM Station, Madame Wongs, Club Lingerie and The Palamino – a blur of spandex, eyeliner and ratted-hair. Or watching U2 film their video for "The Streets Have No Name" on the rooftop of a building downtown, from my upper floor office in the California Mart. Or dancing as a movie-extra while Oingo-Boingo played "Dead Man's Party" for the movie "Back to School." (I'm in the lower left corner, looking at the camera)
During the Eighties, the most revolutionary thing I did was discover the height my hair could reach with Aqua-Net hair spray; the only thing I ever fought for was my right to party. And all l I ever protested was the wearing of acid-washed jeans.
While hippie kids had Joni Mitchell to admire, we New Wave teens had Madonna pushed down our throats. My parents lived by sayings like: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," while my friends and I were pounded with: "You can never be too rich or too thin." My peers (those of us born in the early to mid 1960s) and I were never dubbed anything like “flower children.” Sociologists just lumped us into the "Baby-Boomer" group. The closest we came to being acknowledged was having a group of actors in our age group tagged the “Brat Pack.”
Eventually, I put down my Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler long enough to turn on the television to see what was going on in Tiananmen Square and to witness the fall of the Berlin Wall. But most of the decade had little to do with political revolutions. Most of us young people didn't take ourselves too seriously...my friends and I, anyway. Maybe that was our way of rebelling. Who knows? Anyway, we were pretty busy playing Pac-Man or watching videos on MTV or moussing our hair for an awesome night of dancing - arms swinging, feet bouncing and heads bopping - like the Go Gos.
No, the ‘80s weren’t the ‘60s. If the decades were bread, the '60s would be grainy and dense wheat bread to the '80's light and airy "Wonder Bread." It was a pretty ridiculous decade - with Dynasty, perms, Adam Ant, leg warmers and head bands – but It was mine.